The Jets now officially will be without two of their top playmakers Sunday.
Three days after running back Le’Veon Bell landed on injured reserve, Jets coach Adam Gase announced Friday that receiver Jamison Crowder will miss Sunday’s game against the 49ers. And Gase didn’t hide Crowder’s importance to the team’s offense.
"Crowder has been probably our best player on offense the last two years," he said.
Crowder missed practice Thursday and Friday after pulling up with hamstring tightness on Wednesday. The 27-year-old receiver had seven receptions for 115 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown reception, in the Jets’ 27-17 loss at Buffalo Sunday. It was Crowder’s first 100-yard receiving game as a Jet.
Crowder has been Sam Darnold’s top option the last two years — including 13 targets on Sunday. Last season, the slot receiver led the Jets in receptions (78), targets (122), yards (883) and touchdowns (six).
Gase said he doesn’t want to risk playing Crowder on Sunday without practicing Thursday or Friday. He also sounded optimistic that Crowder wouldn’t land on the IR, which would leave the receiver out until at least Week 5 against Arizona.
"Even if he did feel better Saturday, last thing we would want is to set him back even more," Gase said. "So hopefully this will be more of a short-term thing than long term, but obviously everybody’s body reacts a little different. Once we get him back on the field and moving him around next week, we’ll kind of see where he’s at."
Until then, the Jets will be limited. With Bell out at least three games with a hamstring injury, the backfield is expected to feature Frank Gore, Kalen Ballage and possibly La’Mical Perine. Perine, a rookie running back out of Florida, missed Week 1 with an ankle injury, but said he feels physically capable of playing and he’s "hoping" to be active this Sunday.
The Jets still will be without Denzel Mims, the second-round receiver from Baylor, who is on IR with a hamstring injury and eligible to return in Week 4 against Denver.
Breshad Perriman, Chris Hogan and Braxton Berrios, who had a combined four receptions for 17 yards on nine targets last week, will be Darnold’s top receiver options. Tight end Chris Herndon had an effective showing against the Bills, with six catches on seven targets for 37 yards. Gase doesn’t want the sudden onslaught of injuries to prominent players to lead to others getting overworked.
"My concern always comes with the amount of bodies we have left," Gase said, "and not keeping certain guys in there forever."
Berrios, who received praise from Gase and will take over for Crowder in the slot, said he’s confident in the Jets receivers, regardless of how many injuries they might have.
"It’s one of those things that are going to happen in football and you almost prepare for it," he said. "Prepare for the backups to become starters in case something does happen."
Gase also credited Darnold’s ability to focus on the players on the field rather than who is missing.
"Crowder’s been a big piece of what we try to do week in and week out," Gase said. "I think Sam’s done a good job at focusing on the guys that are out there and just trying to make sure he’s wired in on the game plan."
Notes & quotes: Quarterback Joe Flacco (neck) was a limited participant at practice but will be out Sunday for the second straight game. Mike White will back up Darnold. Linebackers Avery Williamson (hamstring) and Tarell Basham (hip) were limited Friday.